Waste management in Kazakhstan (Part 1)
Kazakhstan is the first country in the Caucasus and Central Asia region that adopted waste management legislation. Nowadays, more than 43 billion tons of garbage (with annually 5-6 million tons of its disposal) has accumulated at Kazakhstani landfills, whereas only 10-11% of this amount is recyclable. Meanwhile, EU countries and Japan recycle up to 80% of its industrial waste not solely inside of their countries, but also contribute to disposing of waste of other countries. There is an assumption that Kazakhstan may become mired in waste in the near future in case if solid waste recycling will not be regulated by appropriate international standards.
The Concept for Kazakhstan’s transition toward “green economy”
On May 30, 2013, the concept for Kazakhstan’s transition to a “green economy” had been adopted by a Presidential decree which defined the principles of development for the next 30 years.
According to this Concept, waste recycling should be up to 40% by 2030, and 50% by 2050. The legal framework on this issue has been created and its’ development is in the progress. The Kazakhstani Environmental code was amended to strengthen measures for waste management, as well as for implementing expanded manufacturers’ obligations. The Government has also banned the disposal of certain types of waste in landfills.
Based on this concept, a program for the modernization of the solid waste management system for the period 2014-2050 was adopted. On August 29, 2016, the program was canceled by the Government decree, and a decision was made to solve the emerging waste problems locally.
In particular, since 2016, it is forbidden to dispose of mercury-containing lamps and devices, scrap metals, waste oils and liquids, batteries, and electronic waste. On January 1, 2019, the ban was imposed on the disposal of plastic, scrap paper, cardboard, and waste paper, glass, and from January 1, 2021 – of construction and food waste. Kazakhstan also intends to gradually abandon the use of plastic bags.
The Ministry of energy in collaboration with Akimat (local authorities) has developed a project called “a Set of measures for solid waste advanced management and recycling with the broad involvement of small- and medium-scale enterprises”. The system of expanded manufacturers’ obligations (EMO) implemented in 2016 will lead to a target of 40% of the recyclable solid waste by 2030. For example, the manufacturer must pay a fee for importing tires and auto oils to Kazakhstan and for their further disposal. The raised funds transferred to processing plants by the EMO. This scheme allows to involving as many entrepreneurs as possible in waste management. Initially, the EMO subsidized car trash, tires, and oils; but since 2017, they have been financing the collection and processing of other types of waste, such as plastic, polyethylene, cardboard, paper, glass and metal. Since the beginning of 2019, the disposal of glass, paper, and polyethylene has been banned. Thereafter, the disposal of construction and household garbage will be banned from January 2021.
Why Kazakhstan’s waste industry does not encourage investment?
There are more than 160 companies that separate and recycle waste and further produce more than 20 types of products in the Republic of Kazakhstan. However, those who are willing to invest in landfills are overwhelmed by a large number of requirements. Thus, the state provides a land parcel for a trash landfill under the condition that needs to be cleared from the garbage.
There is a dubious future without public assistance and a unified policy for this industry. It is important to keep separating, recycling plants and landfills under the control of the state or private owners. However, landfills are currently nationally owned, whereas waste separating and recycling plants are in private ownership. Consequently, it is necessary to consider carefully the solid waste structure in order to develop effective methods for its recycling. Kazakhstani garbage has a very aggressive level as its structure contains a lot of solid and toxic waste. Altogether, the amount of potentially recyclable waste is approximately 46%.
It is estimated that the Kazakhstani tariff structure for recycling a ton of garbage should be formed in a completely different way. For example, in many developed countries, 45-50% of the tariff is paid to processing plants, about 40% – to exporting companies, and 10% – to landfills. It is different in Kazakhstan: 65% belongs to the exporting organization, about 17% – to the waste processing plant and 18% – to the landfill. In addition, Kazakhstani landfills do not comply with internationally recognized standards.
Nevertheless, the State considers another potential investment scheme. It is planned to build six to eight pilot incineration complexes, which will significantly reduce the volume of waste disposal in landfills and encourage investments in the waste incineration industry. That will encourage at least 500 million dollars in the next few years and raise the percentage of garbage processed into fuel to 30%.
Keywords: waste management, Kazakhstan, recycling, landfills, green economy, transition, circular economy, expanded manufacturers’ obligations, garbage, solid waste, disposal